NHS dental patients in England have missed 19 MILLION appointments this year


NHS dental patients in England have missed 19 MILLION appointments this year alone – as lockdown triggers ‘ticking time bomb’ for nation’s oral health

  • 19million NHS dentist appointments have been missed this year in England alone
  • Across the UK 70 per cent of practices are running at less than half their capacity
  • British Dental Association warn that Covid restrictions are creating backlog of millions of patients’ procedures

Patients in England have missed 19 million dentist appointments so far this year as experts warn the backlog is a ‘ticking time bomb’ for serious health problems.

The British Dental Association (BDA) say the overwhelming majority of UK practices – some 70 per cent – are still running at less than half their pre-pandemic capacity.

Dentists have been forced to focus on urgent and emergency cases, meaning a sharp decline in time for routine appointments where problems such as decay, gum disease, and oral cancer can be spotted early.

The industry body warns that oral health problems that were ‘bottled up during lockdown’ are still being managed through an inflexible system, and issues that could have been resolved are being missed.

The British Dental Association (BDA) say the overwhelming majority of UK practices – some 70 per cent – are still running at less than half their pre-pandemic capacity (stock photo)

They say the government’s restrictions on ‘fallow time’ – the time gap between procedures designed to reduce the risk of viral transmission – means practices can only take a fraction of their usual appointments in a day.

One way to reduce the fallow time is by improving ventilation of treatment rooms to increase the rate of air change per hour (ACH) to above 10, which would mean a gap of 20 minutes between appointments.

Many surgeries with less advanced ventilation have around 6 ACH, meaning a necessary gap of around an hour.

However, research by the BDA has found the cost of such equipment is in the region £10,000 for a smaller surgery, meaning many would be unable to afford it.

​BDA Chair Eddie Crouch said: ‘Restrictions on dental practise are with us for the foreseeable future.

The government's restrictions on 'fallow time' - the time gap between procedures designed to reduce the risk of viral transmission - means practices can only take a fraction of their usual appointments in a day (stock photo)

The government’s restrictions on ‘fallow time’ – the time gap between procedures designed to reduce the risk of viral transmission – means practices can only take a fraction of their usual appointments in a day (stock photo)

‘Since the first lockdown, we have been reaching out to members to track the impact of the pandemic.

‘Now, we have another crucial call to government borne from the vital evidence that members have been sharing with us and it is this: Practices need capital investment from the government to help reduce their fallow time, increase capacity and, once and for all, improve access for all.

‘Covid-19 restrictions on patient throughput, set by government, are placing significant limits on the number of patients we can treat for the foreseeable future. Your support could help bring tens of millions of patients back through our doors to get the care they need.’

MailOnline have approached the Department for Health and Social Care for comment.

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